Dirk Powell brings multi-genre roots music to ASU
One of the highlights of Appalachian State University’s
Appalachian Heritage Council Old-Time Fiddlers Convention this Saturday, Feb. 9, will be the
headline concert by Dirk Powell.
One of the most respected roots musicians in the business, Powell has kept his music planted in both the Appalachian string band traditions and Cajun music traditions simultaneously.
On the Cajun side of the equation is Powell’s band, Balfa TouJours. At the Feb. 9 concert at ASU, however, the Dirk Powell Band will be performing, a group that includes acclaimed roots musicians Riley Baugus, Sammy Lind and Nadine Landry.
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and will take place in the newly opened Parkway Ballroom, located on the top floor of the Plemmons Student Union at ASU. Tickets for the show are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show for ASU students, and $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show for the general public.
In the week prior to coming to Boone, Powell has been in Scotland participating in the prestigious Transatlantic Sessions (TS). That is where the great American musician Jerry Douglas works with the acclaimed Scottish musician Aly Bain to bring together artists from both sides of the Atlantic to make incredible music. (Here is a powerful video from a previous TS project featuring Powell front and center – tinyurl.com/a79ujt3.)
“There is a lot of love between Cajun, Celtic and old-time Appalachian musicians,” Powell said. “Really, they are not-so-distant cousins in the big picture. Cajun music had a lot of influence from people coming down from North Carolina, Virginia, etc. In fact, my father-in-law, Dewey Balfa, who is considered one of the most important ambassadors of Cajun music, is descended from the Balfours from North Carolina, who came to Louisiana in the early 1800s. Of course, Balfour is a Scottish name originally.
“Many Cajun greats have similar lineage, like Dennis McGee. They had ancestors who literally married into that culture and, within one generation, spoke only French. All in all, they are very familiar musical languages, one to the other, and the differences tend to delight people who play one style or the other.”
Powell’s band will feature a lot of North Carolina-based music on Saturday, especially after the loss last year of a High Country legend.
“We’re playing a lot of the traditional Appalachian music that I learned from my grandfather in Kentucky, of course, and a lot of the hard driving North Carolina old-time music I’ve always loved,” Powell said. “We’ve been talking a lot about Doc Watson lately, who was a hero to me, and Riley Baugus, who has been playing with me a lot, and we’re playing some of Doc’s tunes. Riley got really close to Doc at the end of his life, especially, and was honored to be a pallbearer at Doc’s funeral. We also play some Cajun music and often a couple of old country songs. Mainly, we play things that come from the heart and from people we’ve known and loved. Still, we’ll mainly focus on pretty hard-driving old-time music for the most part.”
Powell and Baugus have collaborated musically for many years, and it is always a special occasion when they play together.
“Riley is really a brother to me,” Powell said. “We’ve known each other since we were teenagers. He is a deep soulful player and singer, and we feel it from the same place. He is like family to me, so there is a trust there that enables you to play your best music. It’s like, in a way, you can do no wrong because what the other wants is wherever you are in the moment. That’s a real freedom, and it feels rare. I feel blessed to have a friend like that in Riley. It’s the same with Sammy Lind and Nadine Landry, of the Foghorn Stringband, who will also be with me in Boone. We’ve been through so much together in all corners of the world, and there is a faith and trust and truth there that just enables you to do your best.”